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Old 07-21-2003, 06:52 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Hoax of the Day: Gang Initiations

Claim: Prospective new members are initiated into ruthless street gangs by killing the drivers of cars who flash their headlights at them.

Status: False.

Example:


Read & Heed!

A police officer working with the DARE program has issued this warning: If you are driving after dark and see an on-coming car with no headlights on, DO NOT FLASH YOUR LIGHTS AT THEM! This is a common gang member "initiation game" that goes like this:

The new gang member under initiation drives along with no headlights, and the first car to flash their headlights at him is now his "target". He is now required to turn around and chase that car, and shoot at or into the car in order to complete his initiation requirements. Make sure you share this information with all the drivers in your family!

Origins: Though
print references to this scare date back to 1993, anecdotal information takes it back to the early 1980s when a reader in Montana heard the Flash me! Hell's Angels bike gang in California was said to be initiating inductees in this fashion. By 1984 the story had spread to Eugene, Oregon and had by then changed into a tale of Black and hispanic street gangs in Los Angeles targeting white people. "Flash your headlights and have a prospective gang member kill you as part of his initiation" legends have been with us for almost twenty years, something that should be kept in mind as this year's hysteria builds.

In August 1993, a major outbreak of this scare swept the United States. It spread quickly with the help of fax machines and e-mail forwards. The early fears were further intensified when a new round of faxes went out a few weeks later, these announcing a "Blood initiation weekend" of September 25 and 26 of that year.

Police Depts across the nation are being warned that this is the "blood" initiation weekend. Their intent is to have all the new bloods nationwide drive around on Saturday and Sunday nights with their headlights off. In order to be accepted into the gang, they have to shoot and kill all individuals in the first auto that does a courtesy flash to warn them that their lights are off.

"Blood initiation weekend" came and went without incident. Meanwhile, fake memos continued to circulate, each issuing a dire warning about this new gang initiation rite. The alerts looked credible -- they were printed on what was purported to be Sacramento (California) or Illinois State Police letterhead. The police department in Lynn (Massachusetts) also got into the act when a prankster induced it to issue a warning. All three of those law enforcement agencies fielded thousands of calls about the alerts they had supposedly authored.

The hoax struck especially hard in Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, New York State, California, and Texas. From the end of 1993 until February 1994, it went into remission. Then a Massillon woman revived it with a one-page handwritten flier that said police were warning women to be aware because a gang was coming from Detroit to recruit members. Initiation would be to kill a woman at Belden Village Mall. In one night, she sent faxes to several dozen businesses. Police arrested Ann Sibila the next day and charged her with inducing panic.

It's possible the 1993 outbreak of this hoax was helped along by memories of a real life incident in 1992. Kelly Freed, a school secretary from Stockton, California, was shot to death after the driver of the car she was riding in gestured to a carload of kids who had forgotten to turn their headlights on. According to Stockton Police Lt. Ted Montes, the gesture was mistaken as a sign of disrespect. Montes said the kids were not gang-bangers and the incident had nothing to do with ritual. The two youths responsible for Freed's death were convicted of murder.

The rumor laid dormant until October 1998 when it again whipped around the Internet and through fax machines. The warnings this time were said to have originated with a DARE police officer in Houston, Texas. Once again, it was the same old story -- no gang initiations, no killings, just a hoax on the loose. A hoax which quickly spread to all parts of the U.S.A.

Scares of this ilk easily pick up additional believability based on who does the forwarding. The 1998 version was given an extra little boost in San Diego when Housing Commission staffers there forwarded the warning to other city departments, including the Mayor's office and City Council. Though the "warning" was quickly debunked and short-circuited at City Hall, this didn't happen before those forwards -- now issuing from a local government agency and thus much more likely to be believed -- spread far and wide.

In common with versions in circulation in other parts of the country, the San Diego warning was said to have originated with the Sheriff's Department. (In most every community this warning reaches, the "Sheriff's Department" mentioned in the memo is always presumed to be the local one.) Debunking in San Diego was simple; someone at City Hall contacted the actual Sheriff's Department for confirmation. "We certainly did not send it out," said Lt. Ronald Van Raaphorst.

Sometimes the actual warning does come from a real Sheriff's Department.

In the fall of 1998, the Nassau Sheriff's Office in Florida forwarded the warning to the Fire Department, who subsequently sent it to every department in the city. In this case, the mistake originated with the Sheriff's Office; it hadn't bothered to check out a fax before forwarding it to others:

Still, Ann Johnson, who supervises Nassau County dispatchers, said she thought the memo was serious enough to distribute. One of her part-time dispatchers brought it to her office and told her he had confirmed it with Jacksonville police, she said. So her office sent it to various agencies in the county.

The 1998 prize for most authoritative vectoring of this canard goes to Art Eggleton, Canada's Minister of Defence. On 20 November 1998, his office dispatched an "!!URGENT!!" security warning for all Ontario Members of Parliament. Later that same day, his office followed up the warning with an update advising recipients the original story was false.

Throughout the history of this scare there has been only one shooting which might have been prompted by the hoax. David Vargyas of Toledo, Ohio, was injured in October 1993 in what could have been a copycat attack. According to the other man in the car with Vargyas, the car from which the shots were fired was traveling without its headlights operating. Vargyas' companion, who was driving in the opposite direction, flashed his headlights at the suspect car to warn them. The car then pulled alongside the Vargyas auto, and someone inside fired three shots, one of which wounded Vargyas.

Other than the Vargyas incident (and even in that case we're not sure what prompted that incident, if it was a "lights out" shooting or if a popular rumor was used to cover something else), there have been no "Lights Out!" shootings. Not in the early 1980s, not in 1993, not in 1998.

Source: snopes.com
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Old 07-24-2003, 08:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I realize that I'm dragging this topic back from the dead, but I just felt like I had to comment on it. A few years back, the school system in my town had this warning on its weekly bulletin for about a month. Along with it was a warning that HIV infected needles were being left inside the coin return slots of payphones. Both of these were hoaxes. Has anyone heard of the second one?
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Old 07-24-2003, 08:50 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The school I used to attend actually issued a warning to beware of syringes containing HIV a few years back. I didn't think it was true, especially in a sleepy little town. But, my mother got freaked out. =/
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Old 07-25-2003, 08:54 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I remember being told about the headlight thing when I was learning to drive. It was referred to as the "Lights-out" gang or something. They followed you home, and put YOUR lights out. I now make it a point to flash my lights at people driving at night without headlights on, or in the rain without lights on (state law in many states, including Virginia and all Federal areas). It's such a simple thing to flip your lights on when you hit your wipers and no one does it. It's not like you're being asked to do something strenuous like put on a seat-belt or something.

-Mikey
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Old 07-29-2003, 06:54 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hit my town. Police issued a warning and everything.
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Old 08-04-2003, 07:35 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I remember this as well from around 93. It was almost annoying as all the e-mail virus hoaxes....fondly remembers when getting a virus through opening a message was a hoax....thanks Microsoft (although I think lotus or some other system had the very first on open virus)
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Old 08-04-2003, 01:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I didn't hear about the HIV needles in coin slots.. I heard about people putting HIV infected needlesin the cushions on theatre seats... for monthes I would look at my seat before I sat on it.
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Old 08-04-2003, 03:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Hmm, I haven't heard of this one. Odd.

However, I do live in a small town, perhaps that's the cause.
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Old 08-05-2003, 07:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I've heard this one a few times. It's kind of funny how easily people will buy into and spread things like this.
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Old 08-07-2003, 02:02 PM   #10 (permalink)
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How about the rope tied to a brick thing in "Old School," I bet people do that...
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Old 08-08-2003, 03:13 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Hoax
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Old 08-08-2003, 08:59 PM   #12 (permalink)
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That headlight hoax has been around since the 80s.
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Last edited by yournamehere; 08-08-2003 at 09:05 PM..
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Old 08-18-2003, 07:31 PM   #13 (permalink)
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snopes.com says...both are hoaxes:

http://snopes.com/horrors/madmen/lightout.htm
http://www.snopes.com/horrors/mayhem/payphone.htm

And the HIV theater needle prick, for good measure:
http://www.snopes.com/horrors/madmen/pinprick.htm
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